Facebook cheats its developers, again

Owen Thomas · 10/17/08 05:40PM

It has taken Facebook more than a year to pick the 25 winners of its FBFund grants competition, who have received $25,000 prizes. And now those 25 can try for $250,000 more, according to Facebook's FAQ: "The top 25 applications [in round I] will receive $25k grant. After Round I the top 25 may resubmit to apply for one of five $250k grants awarded in Round II." So if you win both grants, you get $275K, right? Wrong!By Facebook's math, one $25,000 grant + one $250,000 grant = a total of $250,000. In announcing the Round I winners, Facebook's Catherine Lee pulled a $225,000 figure out of thin air: "Once round two closes in December, we will announce our five finalists, each of which will receive up to an additional $225,000 in funding." I'm sure Facebook flack Elliot Schrage has some highly entertaining explanation for this which he will deliver straightfaced to other reporters, who will then call us and howl with laughter. For now, we're content to just blame Sheryl Sandberg.

Facebook belatedly funds 25 bad ideas

Owen Thomas · 10/15/08 02:40PM

BarTab. Thankster. Daikon. Pongr. Newsbrane. Faithfeed. Koofers. Say the names of the apps which won Facebook's application-writing contest out loud, and you instantly understand what a joke the process must have been. What's really funny is how long it took Facebook's grants committee to arrive at this list of 25 winners, who will receive a second round of $25,000 grants from Facebook's FBFund and "mentoring" from Facebook employees. (Sadly, no therapy is included.)Facebook had first promised an announcement for September 22, then October 10. The results finally came today — only after Valleywag pointed out the ongoing delay. Facebook is now spinning the "amazing diversity" of its winners. Translation: They gave up and picked them at random. A suggestion to Facebook's grant-granters: If no one deserves a prize, it's totally okay not to give one.

What's wrong with Facebook's FBFund?

Owen Thomas · 10/13/08 05:20PM

Silicon Valley's bubble in Facebook-apps startup has been our own local version of the crisis in toxic mortgage securities. With venture capitalists growing leary of the concept, developers have been eagerly awaiting the outcome of Facebook's FBFund, a grants program for applications startups. Results were promised on September 22, then again last Friday; Facebook still hasn't made a decision on the lucky winners. Why? Because Facebook's applications platform has become, like everything else in the company, a scene of rabidly intense politicking.Here's an update for anyone who didn't get the memo: Facebook's applications "platform," a set of software tools for embedding timewasting entertainments within the social network's pages, is not a level playing field. Some applications are more equal than others. That's only become clearer since Facebook foolishly put Facebook's platform in the hands of its top flack, Washington-trained bloviator Elliot Schrage. Facebook's Great Apps program, meant to designate higher-quality applications, has become a shameful excuse for nepotism. Awarding money on the merits is hard enough. When you mix in the need to help out your COO's brother-in-law's pet startup, or your ex-president's latest venture, it complicates matters. Is Facebook going to come out with a list of apps to fund that it's truly proud of? Or will this look more like an appropriations bill after it's made its way through Congress, larded with earmarks?

Facebook to spend another $2 million trying to prove it's worth $15 billion

Nicholas Carlson · 08/05/08 01:20PM

Facebook announced it will pay out $2 million to winners of its second fbFund developers' competition. 25 first-round winners will get $25,000 each, and five second-round winners will win $250,000. The money comes as a grant, not an investment, with the only stipulation being that Facebook backers Accel and Peter Thiel's Founders Fund get the right of first refusal for any investment rounds in the future.Last fall, Microsoft paid $240 million for 1.6 percent of Facebook, along with an advertising deal. That wasn't because it was a popular social network, but because the tech press was talking up Facebook as a platform for social applications — a Windows for widgets. Facebook's platform has fallen far short of that promise. The successful apps widgetmakers created in the first year of the platform's existence succeeded through spammy viral tactics, not by being particularly useful or fun for Facebook users. Social-games maker Zynga, for example, makes its games easier to win for users who invite their friends to play. Facebook began changing its platform rules to discourage such tactics in January. This summer, it brought out the stick, suspending popular applications like Top Friends for violations. Now comes the carrot, in the form of the fbFund. To taste Facebook's cash, developers must meet a specific set of criteria from Facebook. We've translated them from PR-speak below. Facebook's criteria:

How Facebook's fbFund rejects wantrepreneurs

Nicholas Carlson · 01/29/08 02:40PM

Facebook and its two main backers, the Founders Fund's Peter Thiel and Accel's Jim Breyer, set up the fbFund in September, promising to dole out some $10 million in checks sized $25,000 to $250,000, made out to Facebook-app startups. The wantrepreneurs flooded Facebook. Facebook told them it reserved the right to rip off their idea, and mass-deleted their submissions. And still they came back for more. Now, at last, these sad-sack developers are starting to get their rejection letters, AllFacebook reports. Here's your copy.

We reserve the right to rip off your idea

Owen Thomas · 09/21/07 01:26PM

Pity the poor Facebook-app developer. The hot social network won frothing fanboys up and down the Valley when it opened up its site to any programmer who wanted to create amusing add-ons. With MySpace actively blocking some third-party applications, Facebook looked like a hero. Now, however, the bloom is off the rose.